Note: the 13th Annual Ed Tour is visiting Bethel today. Last week, Bethel was a hub of activity, with the Yuut celebration and the visit by members of the President’s cabinet.
When I landed in Bethel, I was greeted by Valerie Davidson. A product of Bethel Head Start, Valerie now manages government relations for the statewide Anchorage-based Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. She’s giddy with the news that Senator Murkowski has secured $2MM in next year’s budget for the Dental Health Aide Therapist program, but giddier still, because she’s back home in Bethel for a few days. We bump along to her beautiful Kuskokwim riverside home and munch on some salmon strips, cheese and grapes.
People are streaming into Bethel. Tomorrow will be a historic day as four members of the President’s cabinet will arrive in this town of 5,000 as part of their nationwide rural listening tour. But that’s not what’s got Val excited at this moment. “Let’s go fishing”, she says. “I’m in”, I reply. It takes a little while to borrow a boat trailer, find some size 10 boots for me, get the boat in the water, and get the out-of-practice motor humming. We set out on the river as most Bethel-ites are headed back in for the evening. It’s around 10pm and the sunset is turning the horizon a wispy hot pink.
We motor out to the spot near Joe’s Place (Joe is long gone) and Val lowers the net into the still water as Andy maneuvers the boat. Watching Val filet the first silver with her ulu is witnessing an artist at work. We lean back and watch the moon rise. Not a half moon, really 60%. And how can you describe the color? Cantaloupe-colored we decide. We drag ourselves back well after midnight knowing that, whatever happens tomorrow, we’re all glad we’re here tonight.
Posted by Michael Hawfield
Diane, you make a visit to Bethel enticing and the thoughts of a fresh silver invokes the most romantic notions of the (real) Alaskan lifeways, those that Native people cherish above all others. Thanks for the thoughts. It’s also so gratifying to read of real help going to a rural community, help that really matters. Your post makes my day.